Women and Peace

The Women’s Centre has had the opportunity to collaborate with other womens groups on a number of excellent cross community and cross border projects.

Building Positive Relations In Brussels

In September 2010 the North Leitrim Women’s Centre joined with over 20 other community based women’s organisations from across Northern Ireland and the Southern Border counties in a networking visit to Brussels and the European Parliament organised by the Training for Women Network (TWN) as part of their Positive Relations Project. This innovative project is funded under the EU’s Peace III programme and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Over the course of 2 days (the 28th & 29th of September 2010) the representatives involved in peace building work with women at a local level met with a series of key individuals and organisations in Brussels including MEPS, European Commission Staff and Irish & Northern Ireland government officials based in Brussels. 

The Positive Relations Programme partipants in Brussels, September 2010.

The purpose of the visit was to promote and raise awareness of the work being down on the ground with women, specifically the work of the Positive Relations Project (which NLWC delivers in Leitrim), and the need for continued support for initiatives working towards increasing the active engagement of women in their communities and beyond, the strengthening of women’s voices and influence on decision making and supporting the key role women play in peace building at a local community level.

Representatives meet with a number of MEPs from both south and north of the border including Marian Harkin, Mairead McGuinness, Bairbre De Brun, Jim Nicholson and Dianne Dodds who were keen to hear about the work on the ground and ways in which they could support the work and its continuation. Meetings also took place with staff from The Office of the North Ireland Executive and the Irish Regions Office based within Brussels who managed the difficult task of demystifing the context and the working of Europe.

The event was a great success not only in terms of raising the profile of the work taking place on the ground and the need for continued support but also in terms of connecting the local work to the European context and bringing Europe a step closer to the work on the ground. It also was a great networking opportunity for the women present and their organisations with links and friendships made that will no doubt lead to many more joint activities in the future. 

Cross Border Residential – May 2010

In May 2010, 37 women from across the Western & Central Border Region, namely Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Tyrone came together for 2 days on the beautiful Lusty Beg Island in Fermanagh to begin to work together to build a shared vision for women in the border region. 

 

Part of the weekend’s Timetable

 

The residential entitled ‘Women coming in from the Borders – Creating a 2020 Vision for Women in the Border Counties’ was organised and hosted by the 6 Positive Relations Projects in the Western & Central Border Region (one of which is the North Leitrim Women’s Centre). The key aim of the residential was to bring women from the 6 counties together to begin a process of building a shared collective history, find common themes in their present life and begin to work together to create a shared vision for the future. 

The specific aims of the residential were to create a space and an opportunity for women from different parts of the border region (north & south): 

  • To share and build on their collective history and experience
  • To come together and share, discuss and identify their issues, concerns and hopes for the future
  • To create a shared vision of the future for women in the border region
  • To build links and foster new friendships

The event was organised and funded as part of the Positive Relations Project, a regional project supported by the EU’s Peace III programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body and delivered by TWN. 

The residential was designed to create an environment that was lead by the women themselves. The approach and style of the 2 days allowed the women present to set the agenda, decide on the key themes, find common issues and dictate the direction and focus of the event and ultimately the outcomes. The residential focused on the 3 interlinked themes of past, present and future. 

Creating the timelines

 

In revisiting the ‘past’ the women present created three comprehensive time lines charting their personal & community lives and their perspectives on key historical events and people that affected their lives and the lives of women in Ireland both north and south. This allowed them to explore their shared and common history and begin to identify issues for a collective future together.  Many of the women were surprised how much they had in common when sharing their experiences with each-other.  Some very lively discussions developed when women were trying to pinpoint historical events and people that have impacted on women and their lives, these included Countess Markievieze’s election to government, the women’s movement, legalisation of contraceptives, women’s right to vote, equal pay, and many more. 

In examining the ‘present’ the women took part in a ‘mind mapping’ exercise where they identified issues that were important to them in looking towards a shared future.  This was a very interactive, lively and thought provoking exercise which identified a wide range of issues that participants felt were important to and concerned women today including domestic abuse, young people, suicide prevention, women’s health, employment, access to services, cross border and cross community relations, community responsibility along with many more. 

In looking to the ‘future’ the women present set their own agenda around the themes they felt were most important in looking to the future these included Travellers, cross community work, community responsibility, supporting women in influencing decision making, supporting young women, and support for addiction issues. 

Participants on the Cross Border Residential

 

The residential was very successful, it enabled women to network, to discuss topics important to them, to allow them to concentrate on issues that may have affected their lives both positively and negatively in the past. It was carried through on a tangible theme of past present and future.  Its success was reflected during the wrap up when the group were asked to briefly describe the last two days.  Comments included inspirational, life-changing, relationship building, powerful, identity, friendship and empowering. 

In moving the process forward those present put their names forward to join in future discussions and workshops around a number of themes identified over the course of the day with a view to keeping the conversations going, setting firm plans and putting actions in place with a view to realising their vision of a shared future and building on the links and connections made over the two days 

Weaving Friendships

Women from the North Leitrim Women’s Centre and the SEARCH group from Trillick, Co Tyrone came together to discuss and symbolise their experiences by designing and making two quilts.

Themes such as equality, celebration of achievements, gender and how far women have come, women’s issues, women’s health, unemployment, multiculturalism, social issues, isolation and mental health were all explored during the facilitated workshops.  Working on this project enabled women to develop an understanding of cross border issues and to build new links and friendships.

Symbol Explanation

A detail from the quilt.

New Beginnings – A Celebration in Stone

New beginnings is the story of how women from the North Leitrim Women’s Centre, The Shanty Education and Training Centre, Tallaght and The Shankill Women’s Centre, Belfast worked together over a five-year period on a cross border initiative from 1996 – 2001.

Initially the women came together to explore their cultural, political and religious heritage, their differences and their commonality.  This resulted in plans to build a straw bale Women’s Centre in Manorhamilton and was indicative of the strength and spirit that had been generated within the group.  Unfortunately planning permission was refused and so this project never came to fruition.  For the women this was a major blow and could easily have been the end of the project.

However the group persevered and the women explored symbolising their strength and hopes through stone carvings. Their hard work created three standing stones with individual pieces of work, which were positioned on the shore of Lough Mc Nean and are a permanent metaphor for the journey that these women have taken.

The Standing Stones on Lough Mc Nean

Taking Liberties

‘Taking Liberties’ is  a 23-minute educational video programme on the issue of gender inequality. The programme was scripted and produced by 12 women from Leitrim and Sligo who participated in a development project funded under the Equality for Women Measure of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Filming an Interview for the film.

Following training in Women’s Studies and in video and drama/movement techniques, participants collectively devised and produced the final video programme. The process of producing the programme was designed to foster a sense of ownership among the participating women, so that they themselves determined the message and the style of the piece. They also contributed to the programme content as interviewees, performers and technicians.

Using personal experience to explore three interrelated strands of social life – religion, domestic violence and beauty ideals – the programme shows that gender inequality is embedded deeply within society and within each of us too. The programme suggests that progress towards equality is possible given more awareness, more solidarity and more action by all sections of society.

On set

Any group exploring issues of gender inequality can use the completed video programme. It is particularly designed to be viewed in a situation where facilitated discussion on the topics can follow. An accompanying brochure details the background to the programme and suggests ways in which the video can be used. Copies of this video and brochure can be obtained by contacting the North Leitrim Women’s Centre.

On location in Sligo

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